Amy Carroll » Releasing Freely » Abandoned Pictures of the Perfectly Clean House

Abandoned Pictures of the Perfectly Clean House

A little note: I changed the title of this series from “Shattered Pictures”  to “Abandoned Pictures”. Hope y’all will hang in there with me! When I went to type the title this week, I just felt “shattered” is so negative–like we’ve lost something. No! We’re making a choice for something better. We’re abandoning our pictures of perfection. Thanks for listening to my crazy. 🙂

I was on fire as I cleaned my house last week. Literally.

The boys have moved out, so it’s an opportunity to deep clean and have it stay that way. I was in heaven scrubbing the smudged doors, running a duster over each piece of the blinds, and disassembling the beds to vacuum up years of multiplied dust-bunnies.

Suddenly, my ancient vacuum cleaner popped, and when I turned to look, I realized it was on fire! I rushed to the outlet to unplug The Beast (not to confused with Satan, but close), and it sputtered to silence.



Boy, did that vacuum and I make some great memories together. I’m going to miss it! As I thought back over our early days together, I doubled over laughing remembering how I was coerced into buying it. Talk about taking advantage of a girl’s perfectionism.

Barry and I were still newlyweds when a vacuum cleaner salesman came to the door one day. Now that I’m older and spunkier, I turn away salesmen gently but firmly on a regular basis, but those were the days I was still trying to please everyone–including a random vacuum cleaner salesman. So I let him in, and he began his demonstration of The Beast.

First, the salesman had me pull out my vacuum cleaner and run it over the floor. I had a fairly new, inexpensive model that I ran over my floors on a regular basis, and I was proud of how clean my light-colored carpet looked.

Then disaster struck. The salesman pulled out a special clean filter and stuck it in the vacuum he was selling. Turning it on and running it over the “clean” carpet, he explained all the fancy features of this super-duper vacuum. Turning the machine off, he leaned over and removed the filter to show me how very wonderful this vacuum was. The filter was filthy. Piles of dirt, dust and fuzz revealed how insufficient my vacuum was to keep my house perfectly clean.


So I bought the super-duper vacuum.

For a lot of money we didn’t really have.

Why? Because in my perfectionism, I couldn’t stand being unveiled as a less-than-perfect housekeeper. Mercy. Now since this was the salesman’s trap–I mean method– of selling, I’m guessing I’m not the only desperate housewife to be sold a vacuum cleaner this way. Anybody else want to fess up?

For years and years, I tried to keep a perfectly clean house. I have one friend who reminded me of how I would reassemble my toddler son’s Lego barn according to the picture every time he walked away from dismantling it. Sick.

Let me bring a balance to this discussion, though. Titus 2:5 instructs older women to teach younger women to be “busy at home”. Being a terrific homemaker isn’t the problem. That’s actually biblical. It’s a blessing to our families to be part of a well-run household where there’s order and peace, so let’s not use abandoning our picture of the perfectly clean house as an excuse to let it all go. 🙂

Instead, I’m pondering where the line is crossed. When do you know that you’ve crossed the line from being a godly keeper of the home (like the Proverbs 31 woman) to an out-of-control perfectionist? I’d love to hear how you know, but these are some indicators for me.

  • My to-do list takes priority over the needs of the people in my space.
  • If you get in the way of checking things off the to-do list, you’ll live, but you’ll regret it.
  • I’m constantly irritable. (Maybe because keeping things perfectly clean is impossible?)
  • I can’t enjoy clean spots in the house. The house has to be clean in its entirety.

Only when I began to align my priorities with God’s did my cleanliness perfectionism subside. When I saw my people as treasures instead of obstacles… When I could be thankful for what had been done rather than obsessing over what hadn’t yet been completed… When times of rest became a bigger priority than checks on my list…

Yes, it was fun to clean the boys’ rooms last week knowing that they would stay clean for a time, but I cried over the precious finger prints on the door frames that will only be replaced with their presence. My heart ached as I tucked childhood treasures into plastic bins to be revisited only when we reminisce. I long for those rooms to be filled again with my young men and their sweaty socks more than I hope for them to stay pristine.

I’ve come a long way, baby, since the day I overpaid for that stupid vacuum cleaner. How about you? How are you doing with your mental pictures of a perfectly clean house? Any advice for those of us who are reforming?

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  1. Lisa Anger says:

    Breaking up with perfect!

  2. Having only had mental pictures of a perfectly clean house, I used to envy those of you who actually have the know-how to get it that way! I have gotten overwhelmed and tearful when working on cleaning my home- much to do and unsure where to begin. But I see that striving for perfection in any area of life takes our focus off of our lovely Savior.

    I’ll be praying for those who do suffer from the pressure of perfection and thanking God that He sees my heart, perfectly cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice.

  3. Another great post! My vacuum actually just stopped working this past weekend, too. We think it’s the belt so hopefully an easy fix because I sure do love that thing! However, I am trying to live by this motto more and more …

    “The secret to making guests feel comfortable is more about the condition of your heart than the condition of your home.”

    Let’s be thankful we have homes and family and guests that want to fill up this space clean or not!

  4. Brenda Jordan says:

    Boy! Can I relate! I also bought one, but I tired it and it really was a good vacuum. It has been gone for several years. My kids used to complain because bright and early …even on the weekends and in the summer…out that thing would come! I too have learned that once I was finished getting behind furniture and cleaning bed rails, the dust started accumulating again. Now in later years…and with health issues…I have learned to take time with grand babies and make memories. Does anyone complain? No. I am perfect to them even with my imperfection.

  5. Vickie Youmans says:

    I am so in agreement with you! Great article.Perfectionists are not happy people because no matter how perfect we try to get things, nothing is ever perfect enough.Got to find balance! I am in a “different” season in my life where I am learning to put God, my Husband (of 41 years by the way), my 2 Children, my 4 Grandchildren and my Job (of 41 years also) in this order and balancing my life in this order as well. My perfectly clean house is out the window:)